March 8, 2023

Celebration Of Women Who Broke Barriers In FinTech

International Women’s Day: Celebrating kick-ass women staking their claim in the fintech space.

March 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD), when the world celebrates women and the cause for gender diversity, equity, and inclusion. The first International Women’s Day was observed in 1908. While women empowerment has come a long way since the early 1900s, we’re yet to see a truly gender-neutral world. Thankfully, women continue to tirelessly challenge misogyny and discrimination by demonstrating their strengths in historically male-dominated roles.

In the spirit of this year’s IWD campaign theme, #EmbraceEquity, let’s recognize and appreciate the women championing inclusion in the largely patriarchal fintech industry. With the hope of inspiring women entrepreneurs and idealists, here’s a list of five remarkable women who have pioneered revolutionary financial technologies and ventures:

1. Danae Ringelmann, Co-Founder of Indiegogo, United States

In 2008, Danae Ringelmann co-founded the pioneering crowdfunding platform Indiegogo with Eric Schell and Slava Rubin. After 90 rejections by venture capitalists, Indiegogo spurred on and grew against all odds into a world-dominating crowdfunding platform with over 9 million backers in 235 countries and territories.

Danae’s work in bringing such a novel idea to life earned her the prestigious title "Mother of Crowdfunding." Following Indiegogo’s success, Danae was listed on Fast Company’s “Top 50 Women Innovators in Technology”  in 2011 and named in World Economic Forum's “Young Global Leaders” in 2016. She has received several other honors and awards, including AWNY’s “No Apologies” Changemaker Award (2013) and the “Leading Through Innovation Award” (2015).

Additionally, as an entrepreneur herself, Danae actively advocates for women in business.

2. Anne Boden, Founder and CEO of Starling Bank, United Kingdom

Anne Boden launched the first fully licensed online UK bank in 2014. Starling bank has since grown into one of UK's most promising neo or challenger banks. Without opening a single branch, Anne’s bank hit nearly 3 million active users and an impressive £9 billion (approx. $10.9 billion) deposit base in 2022.

Before Starling, Anne worked in the finance industry. In one of her books, Anne recounts how she left her banking job to start a rival bank: “…banking was broken. And I had a ringside seat to view just how badly it had fallen apart.” She says, “…I left my job in December 2013 with a burning desire to create the ‘perfect’ bank.”

And the “perfect” bank it was. Besides providing accessible, convenient, and affordable financial services to both businesses and individuals, Starling bank runs several gender equality initiatives. Anne’s innovative work has earned her many awards over the years, including an MBE for her services to the fintech industry.

Images by Loanspark

3. Ana Barrera, Co-founder and CEO of Aflore, Colombia

After a long career in the banking industry, Ana Barrera realized that some business communities and populations in Colombia were severely financially underserved. To try and solve this problem, Ana and her colleague Manuel Jimenez created Aflore and launched it in 2013.

Aflore is a fintech company providing much-needed financial support to the underbanked in Latin America. It’s a tech-enabled community of informal advisors who reach out to their trusted financial circles to secure affordable funding and insurance for underbanked enterprises and households. The company is proudly female-led, with 75% of the advisors being women.

Ana holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Universidad de Los Andes and an MBA from London Business School. She started her career trading coffee in Colombia — a passion she still follows as a board member of Juan Valdez Café. She later worked for Lehman Brothers and Nomura (now part of Nomura Holdings), designing financial products for institutional clients. Before launching Aflora, Ana directed “Housing for All” at Ashoka, a community welfare program that provided affordable housing in low-income communities.

4. Viola Llewellyn, Founder and President of Ovamba Solutions, Cameroon

In 2013, Viola Llewellyn and Marvin Cole drew up plans for a fintech company from a kitchen table in Maryland, USA. The idea was to create a fintech solution to bolster Africa’s small business communities through access to short-term funding. A year later, Ovamba launched in Douala, Cameroon, after securing financial backing from UK’s GLI Finance (now Sancus Lending Group).

By 2017, just after the beta period, the company had disbursed $7 million in debt funding to over 300 businesses, earning it the “Best Lending and Financing Company in Africa” award (2017). The award-winning “Trade Tech” company now serves Ivory Coast and India as well, and is not stopping there.

Before launching Ovamba Solutions, Viola had a varied career with several stints in US-based companies, including Praxis Management Advisors, Alpha Value Asset Management, and Visage Mobile (now brightfin).

Thanks to her success with Ovamba, Viola is globally recognized as a fintech hero, expert in African entrepreneurship, and banking visionary. She’s a global technology pioneer who actively champions the support and promotion of women in male-dominated leadership roles and STEM professions.

5. Susanne Chishti, Founder and CEO of FINTECH Circle, United Kingdom

Susanne Chishti is one of the most successful female leaders in the fintech space. Among many other awards and accolades, the Evening Standard listed Susanne in the “Top 10 global fintech influencers in 2022.”

Susanne is best known for founding and leading the FINTECH Circle, a global network of entrepreneurs, fintech leaders, investors, and other professionals. The company launched in 2014 as Europe's first fintech-based angel investor network to provide seed capital to UK fintech startups. It has since become a global platform connecting over 216,000 fintech entrepreneurs, investors, and finance experts.

In addition to heading the FINTECH Circle, Susanne is an extensive writer. She co-edited the global bestseller The FINTECH Book and a host of other thought-provoking titles.

Images by Loanspark

Embracing Gender Equality for Economic Growth

According to the World Economic Forum, there were 75 female CEOs in America's 500 highest-grossing companies as of March 2022. Although the number of female business leaders has increased considerably in recent years, female representation in venture leadership is still dismal. Only 15% of CEOs at fortune 500 companies are women.

As we've seen with just a few examples, women can make an impactful difference that shakes a global industry. This is why gender discrimination has no place in leadership, business, or society at large. As Geraldine Ferraro put it, “Some leaders are born women.”

All the women that carve their names in various niches, such as tech and finance, inspire millions of fellow women entrepreneurs across the globe to do the same. In the US, for example, women-owned businesses make up about 20% of all employer firms. Yet these enterprises register stronger business, revenue, and staff growth metrics than their male-owned counterparts. Moreover, women-owned businesses generate nearly $2 trillion in receipts and put over 10 million Americans on the payroll.

You simply can’t deny the impact women entrepreneurs have on the national economy. More importantly, they’ve accomplished these feats amidst blatant gender discrimination. Imagine a world where women had equal rights and access to business, funding, and learning opportunities as men; where would the global economy be? In short, we are stepping on our own toes by failing to embrace gender equality.

Financial Equity with Loanspark

Loanspark promotes financial inclusion by providing companies with the fintech capabilities to create and distribute accessible funding solutions for underserved SMBs, including minority-owned and women-owned enterprises. Let’s all do our part in embracing equity for the good of the economy and society. Contact Loanspark to learn more about equity-conscious embedded funding.

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